Luke Floyd has been familiar with Joplin girls basketball since its days in the Ozark Conference.
When the head coaching job opened up this past spring, Floyd was intrigued.
“Coach (Jeff) Williams’ teams always played hard and were well-coached, so when I saw that there was an opening, I applied,” Floyd said.
Floyd spent five years coaching the Rolla girls but stepped away after the 2018-19 season. The Lady Bulldogs were 24-4 in his last season and advanced to the Class 4 quarterfinals.
Joplin hired Floyd to replace Williams in April.
“I think we have the potential to build something special here,” Floyd said. “This area of the state is a hotbed for basketball and the school has a great academic reputation for my girls.”
The Lady Eagles return the majority of their offensive production on paper. Joplin averaged 37.7 points per game last season and the team’s returning players averaged 28.
Junior Ella Hafer averaged 8.3 points and added six rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.5 steals before suffering a season-ending knee injury. Junior Brooke Nice played in all 26 games and averaged 6.5 points and 2.8 rebounds. Sophomore Brynn Driver also played every game and averaged 7.8 points, 2.6 rebounds, one assist and one steal a night.
“Ella’s athleticism and size will create tough matchups for many teams,” Floyd said. “We are excited to see her develop. Brooke is a great shooter from the outside. We look for her to have a big season, and Brynn returns at the guard position. Her quickness, drive and competitiveness will be an asset again this year.”
The Lady Eagles also return three seniors — Lily Pagan, Jacie Jensen and Brooklyn Denney. Sophomores Serafina Auberry and Isabella Yust also saw a lot of varsity action.
“Lily is a well-rounded player,” Floyd added. “She has worked to develop a more consistent outside shot and will provide leadership in her senior year. Jacie is a quick, defensive-minded player that will provide depth at the guard position while Brooklyn has shown improvement throughout the summer. Serafina is a tough nosed player that does the little things to make her teammates develop.
“She is a great rebounder and defender. We will look for her to provide more scoring this season. Isabella is a smart guard with a lot of potential. Izzy is a good shooter and defender that will fight for minutes.”
Joplin will also add Floyd’s daughter Emma, who transferred from Rolla.
“She has grown up in a gym around our teams,” Floyd said. “She has a high basketball IQ and will provide great leadership as we transition into our system. Emma is skilled offensively and a solid defender.”
While the Lady Eagles were outscored by 16 points last season, Joplin shot better than its opponents from beyond the arc averaging nearly four 3-pointers a game.
As a program, Floyd said he wants his team to be fundamentally sound, play solid man-to-man defense and look to push the ball offensively when the opportunities arise.
Joplin opens its season at Cassville on Friday at 7 p.m. The Lady Wildcats went 10-17 last season.
“I think we have a solid core of players in Emma, Ella, Brooke, Brynn and Serafina that we can build around,” Floyd said. “With us looking to build our program, I will look to these girls for leadership both on and off the floor. I think they are all very talented, but even better they are great girls.”